Sun, Sea and Snake Island

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Ilha da Queimada Grande

Just off of Brazil’s coast lies the quiet Ilha da Queimada Grande. A picturesque island covered in verdant rainforest and surrounded by azure seas. Oddly enough, given its favourable location and pleasant climate, it is totally uninhabited – uninhabited by humans at least. It makes up for this with an abundance of other wildlife, specifically an abundance of poisonous vipers. Vipers so deadly and so numerous that nobody has successfully lived on the island.

Now snakes were mentioned, but there is only one type of snake on the island. The Golden Lancehead Pit-Viper. This snake ranks among the most poisonous on earth, so poisonous it presumably killed any other species of snake, because no other species of snake are found on the island. Fortunately for the rest of the world, these snakes are only found on Ilha da Queimada Grande, meaning humans, and other species of snakes can rest easy.

Initially this shouldn’t be a problem, they’re just snakes. They cannot operate tools, work with fire or plan. The Brazilians can deal with snakes. The problem with the island is not snakes, it is A LOT of snakes. Compared to anywhere else on earth, the sheer density of snakes found there is on an entirely different scale.

Migratory birds landing on the island provide a constant food source, allowing snake numbers to swell beyond what the land could naturally sustain. Specifically, on average, there is one poisonous Golden Lancehead Pit-Viper per square metre of the island. Brazilians call the place, ‘Snake Island.’ The title seems fitting.

The Golden Lancehead Pit-viper

Due to it being a literal nest of vipers, the place has a name for being inhospitable. In fact so inhospitable that those wishing to approach the island for scientific research have to be deposited over 100m from the shore by the Navy and then paddle the rest of the way in their own dinghies, because the Navy refuses to get any closer.

The residents of the nearest city, São Paulo, have stories of the misfortune that has befallen those on the island, one of which is most certainly true, and involves the last people to inhabit that place.

The last inhabitants of the island were harmless people. The lighthouse keeper and his family. The tale goes as all is expected to go on the Ilha da Queimada Grande. All was fine.

Then snakes happened.

A window was left ajar and some snakes found their way inside. They swiftly leaped at the lighthouse keeper, his wife and their three children, biting many. In the heat of the moment they came up with a plan.

Children in their arm the parents burst out of the lighthouse and made a mad dash through the jungle, hoping to reach their boat and escape. Unfortunately, this being the Ilha da Queimada Grande there were snakes. One in the branches overhead lunged and bit a member of the family, then more and more snakes appeared. And those snakes did what snakes do best. The entire family was killed, and no replacement lighthouse keeper has ever been sent. On the island remains an abandoned lighthouse, slowly decaying on an island of snakes.

Further Reading

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Deployed on by Alexandre Coates in Macro Oddities 15 Current Replies

15 Responses to Sun, Sea and Snake Island

  1. Tony Day

    On Ramsay Island, off the South West coast of Wales, there are no puffins; even in the hight of the nesting period. Yet on neighbouring Skoda you can’t move for puffins. The reason? rats. Some rodents arrived on Ramsay and ate all the puffin eggs/chicks so the birds stopped coming. Efforts are being made to get them back now that the rodents have been removed, including putting plastic puffins on the cliffs.
    My point is that even birds know when a place is dangerous so why do they continue to supply the menu for the snakes on this island?

    • Alexandre Coates

      At a guess I would say that this is group behaviour, and changing the behaviour of a group is difficult unless something necessitates it. In the case enough of the group is surviving to make it worthwhile to rest before crossing the last 35km to Brazil. As another example of animals continuing to do dangerous things, in Australia they have a problem the Koalas always travel the same routes that their parent have shown them, meaning that when there is development, they still cross things like busy roads. Resulting in many Koala deaths.
      Also the case you have listed involves two fairly distant islands, meaning that it is very difficult for a puffin to stray from Skomer island to Ramsey island and discover that it is fine now.
      I cannot speak with any certainty, I do not know the history and I do not know nearly enough Ornithologists to properly answer your question. Still, I hope they successfully reintroduce the Puffins, the world needs more Puffins. Thank you for the great comment Tony.

  2. LouieH

    By poisonous, I take it you mean venomous?

    • StopBeingArrogant

      Stop acting like you are so much smarter than everyone. We all know damn well what the article means and you are just trying to sound like some sort of expert. Typical arrogant redditor.

      • TakeALookAtYourself

        oh the irony

  3. Doug Y

    send in the ‘mongeese’

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  8. Greg

    The Government should drop napalm or some other types of incinerates on the island and kill all the snakes, after capturing numerous males and females to keep the species alive in captivity. Could make a lot of money from the island after the snakes are gone.

    • james

      Yeah we should put up a billion dollar hotel, oh and dont forget the parking lot. Lol. Here comes Mickey Mouse.

      • Greg


      • Greg

        How did the snakes get there in the first place?
        Magically appeared?

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